ewhightower

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Six — Rehearsal

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 23, 2017 at 11:59 am

(Did the cool kids mock you again? Craving validation? Start here.)

Day Six, Rehearsal: Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Hardy Boys had it easy.

Their dad was a detective. They had their chum Chet with his jalopy. They lacked any libidinous impulses whatsoever, so they never walked into a piece of scenery because they were staring at a dancer’s ass during rehearsal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I asked my server if anyone had given her the note, and she seemed genuine in her bafflement. I looked around at everyone in the restaurant, recognizing none of them and seeing no furtive skulkery or subtle chicanery. I looked so long that some people began to get uncomfortable. I’m told I have a penetrating gaze. But I haven’t done that since college.

I headed for Woodminster, vigilant in scanning my surroundings for lurkers and observers. I saw nothing out of the ordinary.

Rehearsal began for me at 12 pm with the staging of Honey Bun. I fell off the platform, landing hard on my left leg and then my right ass cheek – kind of rocking backward onto another, perpendicular platform. This is what happens when Edward tries to learn a dance step that doesn’t belong to him. Foolish Edward, attempting the Sailor’s Hornpipe. Which sounds dirtier than it is. Speaking of getting ahead of myself. Zing! (Calm down, Perry.)

When I wasn’t onstage, I took a few hasty moments to jot down further notes and questions:

Montclair Historical Society: does not exist as a brick-and-mortar location – so how do I meet there tomorrow?
What the hell was Louella (Aughra) talking about – the girl with the eyes?
How did that card get into my pocket to begin with?
Why does Bill Weedbeard keep leaving me clues?
Who is watching me and leaving notes that arrive with my bill at restaurants?

When I was onstage, I admit that I was a little distracted: the puzzling messages, the overheard conversations. I started thinking about detectives. Holmes would be storking around, observing things with his aquiline brow perfectly smooth, fully in command of the situation. Watson would be by his side lending able assistance, steadfast and firm. Holmes would already have an idea of who Dolly Lurker really is (because in his universe it wouldn’t be anything supernatural), all based on the rolling of an actor’s cuff, the brush technique used to paint the clouds on the backdrop, or that dancer’s amazing ass.

Poirot would be asking many charming questions, his eyes all warm twinkle, his moustache perfectly waxed. He would be stepping around drifts of sawdust as Captain Hastings makes a series of social gaffes, and Judy would be Poirot’s true assistant in solving the mystery. Quick and nimble, he’d gather all his evidence; he’d pause for a revelatory tisane; then assemble everyone in the men’s dressing room for a stunning and climactic reveal based on the way this actor was staring at that dancer’s ass.

Nick Charles would send Nora off with a series of false clues to try to get her out of the way long enough that he could do some solid detection. She and Asta would see a suspicious character and inadvertently fall into the basement of Woodminster, where they’d find an abandoned distillery and the body of the man everyone thinks is the killer. But Nick would have known it wasn’t Cranky Jack the whole time, because Cranky Jack was really Rooster Carruthers, crime-boss-turned-alchemist, who gave it all up twenty years ago to turn lead to gold. Nick would stage a climactic reveal as well, with plenty of pithy commentary from Nora. And, truth be told, I’m deeply in love with Myrna Loy. So she can comment all she wants. She’d probably make a crack about me staring at things that don’t belong to me. In her incredibly fashionable but utterly impractical hat.

The Hardy Boys would be up to all good, just being clean-cut American white boys who only ever interact with other clean-cut American white kids, when they’d hear a scream from the abandoned old theatre on the hill. They’d run up there just in time to see a figure disappear into the trees, dropping a creepy doll as it ran. They are each other’s companion, but they also have their chum Chet with his trusty jalopy and unreliable fortitude. Because fat guys are weak, right, Franklin W. Dixon? Or do I mean Edward Stratemeyer? I wonder if Frank and Joe ever solved the Mystery of the Old Publishing Syndicate. Either way, you can bet that they wouldn’t have noticed anybody staring at that dancer’s ass. They’d solve the mystery sans craving.

But what is the damned mystery? There’s no body. Some girls disappeared in the 50’s, there’s a creeper with a doll, there’s a group of old hippies who like to talk about fountain pens, Louella (Aughra) drives a very nice car. But there’s nothing right now to connect the Peet’s Eager Quintet to my experiences at Woodminster. And until I know exactly what the Montclair Historical Society is, there will be no connection. For all I know, someone could have put that card in my pocket while I stood waiting to cross a street. And if I spent more time working on my lines than trying to solve this mystery, my work on stage would be a lot more solid. Almost as solid as that dancer’s amazing ass.

That’s a lot to think about. And so maybe you can see how all of these competing thoughts could easily lead a grown man to walk into a wall of the set. I think Judy saw it happen. I tried to play it off like a bit of intentional slapstick. She just stared at me, no expression, then turned to watch the scene onstage with a slight tilt of the head that said, “That’s what you get for staring. Fuckmook.”

We broke a little before 4:30 to get into costumes for program photos. I made a lot of jokes. We took a lot of photos. I was released around 5:30, I think. By the time I left, my left leg was in a lot of pain.

There is nothing sinister about Woodminster in daylight. The smell of pine dust is strong in the parking lot. Taking my keys from my back pocket, the mysterious Historical Society card fell out. I bent down to pick it up, and there, in charcoal on the curb next my driver’s door was:

get to leave

Same font, same medium: mesquite on concrete. Well, now, that seems to be the kind of connection I was lamenting earlier. I looked around for Bill Weedbeard, as he is my chief suspect in this game of smoky messages. Again I saw nothing out of the ordinary, but I had the distinct feeling I was being watched.

Getting into my car, I tossed the card into one of the cup holders in my center console, then wrote this new phrase in my notes; together, they read:

was my purpose
get to leave

More damned anagrams? Red herrings? Bad poetry?

I did a Google search and found articles about the purpose of dogs, and millennials trying to find their purpose. Useless. Until one remembers that this cast is made up mostly of millennials. Is this a cry for help? Are they all confused about their futures? Do none of them want to admit the crushing guilt they experience every day over their secret shame that they voted for Jill Stein?

There was the possibility of my seeing a performance of The Four Immigrants at Theatreworks, but I was sweaty and smeared with sunscreen. My leg hurt, and maybe my head. How I hit my head, I have no idea. But one attends the theatre only in appropriate attire. Shorts, sandals and a Hawaiian shirt are unacceptable.

I went home. Veronica was making thick-cut pork chops. There was a hot shower and cold beer. I was able to set all these thoughts aside for a time.

Just as I was falling asleep, a thought occurred to me; I wrote it in my notebook, then closed my eyes. It was this:

A good detective has a companion.

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  1. Another delectable episode alluding to all kinds of mystery solving characters, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”, and even politics as you’re making social commentary. Edward, you’ve been very solid, now awaiting on the “companion.”

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